SIGNIFICANT COMMITTEE ACTIONS

H.B. 69 (Guillen), establishing eligibility for an active duty military personnel property tax freeze. Reported from the House Ways and Means Committee. (Note: this proposed tax freeze must be approved by voters before it can become law. Please see H.J.R. 17, below. Note that H.J.R. 17 creates a council option, but also allows a citizen petition and popular vote to force council action.)

H.B. 334 (Aycock), requiring city secretaries to give notice of certain meetings to county political party chairs. Reported from the House Elections Committee. (Note: city clerks and secretaries should read this bill.)

H.B. 417 (Callegari), relating to eminent domain. Reported from the House Land and Resource Management Committee. As reported, this bill would provide that:

  • the term “blighted area” means an area that presents four or more of the following conditions for one year after a property owner receives notice of the condition: (a) the area contains uninhabitable, unsafe, or abandoned structures; (b) the area has inadequate provisions for sanitation; (c) there exists at the area an imminent harm to life or other property caused by fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, storm, or other natural catastrophe declared to be a disaster; (d) the area has been identified by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund site or as environmentally contaminated to an extent that the property requires remedial investigation or a feasibility study; (e) the area has been the location of substantiated and repeated illegal activity of which the property owner knew or should have known; (f) the maintenance of the property is below county or municipal standards; (g) the property is abandoned and contains a structure that is not fit for its intended use because the utilities, sewerage, plumbing, heating, or a similar service or facility of the structure has been disconnected, destroyed, removed, or rendered ineffective; or (h) the property presents an economic liability to the immediate area because of deteriorating structures or hazardous conditions.
  • the current statutory provisions relating to urban renewal eminent domain apply only to blighted areas (as opposed to “slum” areas).
  • a municipal governing body must determine that each unit of property (as opposed to an “area,” as is current law) be designated as blighted, and make corresponding procedural changes to urban renewal laws.
  • notwithstanding any other law, an area may not be considered a blighted area on the basis of a condition described above unless the city has given notice in writing to the property owner regarding the imminent harm to life or other property caused by the condition of the property, and the property owner fails to take reasonable measures to remedy the harm caused by the property.
  • an area may not be considered blighted solely for aesthetic reasons.
  • a city shall provide a relocation advisory service for an individual, a family, a business concern, a farming or ranching operation, or a nonprofit organization, and the service must be compatible with the Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance Advisory Program.
  • a city shall, as a cost of acquiring real property, pay moving expenses and rental supplements, make relocation payments, provide financial assistance to acquire replacement housing, and compensate for expenses incidental to the transfer of the property if an individual, a family, the personal property of a business, a farming or ranching operation, or a nonprofit organization is displaced in connection with the acquisition.
  • the special commissioners in a condemnation hearing shall admit evidence on the injury to the property owner, including the financial damages associated with the cost of relocating from the condemned property, if the property was habitable, to another property that allows the property owner to have a standard of living comparable to the property owner’s standard of living before the condemnation of the property.
  • the provisions of the bill shall supersede broad eminent domain powers relative to tax increment financing.

H.B. 489 (Pickett), relating to graffiti abatement. Reported from the House County Affairs Committee. H.B. 806 (Gallego), requiring that health benefit plans provide coverage for prosthetics. Reported from the Senate State Affairs Committee.

H.B. 1054 (Mallory Caraway), relating to financial responsibility for a vehicle. Reported from the House Public Safety Committee. As reported, this bill provides that a peace officer may not impound a vehicle solely because the driver has no vehicle insurance.

H.B. 1174 (Hartnett), providing that a city may pay damages arising from the backup of the city’s sanitary sewer system regardless of whether the city would be liable for the damages under the Texas Tort Claims Act. Reported from the House Urban Affairs Committee.

H.B. 1177 (Guillen), broadening the applicability of Subchapter A of Chapter 614 of the Government Code, relating to required legislative leave for peace officers and firefighters, from cities of 200,000 or more in population to cities of 50,000 or more in population. Reported from the House Urban Affairs Committee.

H.B. 1303 (Menendez), relating to health benefits for certain survivors of peace officers or firefighters killed in the line of duty. Reported from the House Appropriations Committee. As passed, this bill provides that when a surviving spouse obtains health coverage from the entity for which the deceased peace officer or firefighter had worked, the spouse “may not be required to pay a premium amount for the coverage that is greater than the premium amount that a current employee of the employing entity without a spouse is required to pay to cover the employee alone or to cover the employee and the employee’s dependent children, as applicable to the eligible survivor.” This would mean that if the city pays the premiums for active employees, the surviving spouse would pay nothing for his/her coverage. Under the bill, the surviving spouse would be eligible for this benefit until he/she is eligible for Medicare. The city would incur costs in these relatively rare instances.

H.B. 1399 (Guillen), relating to inquests. Reported from the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. As reported, this bill would allow a municipal court judge to conduct an inquest, and would require the city council to pay the fees of any experts the judge may require.

H.B. 1433 (Lucio), raising the cap on the annual water quality fee imposed on a city by TCEQ from $75,000 to $200,000. Reported from the House Natural Resources Committee.

H.B. 1648 (Menendez), relating to fire/police civil service. Reported from the House Urban Affairs Committee. As reported, this bill would amend Chapter 143 of the Local Government Code to limit the way in which a civil service city may investigate a complaint against a police officer or firefighter, including: (1) limiting the times at which a police officer or firefighter may be interrogated; (2) not allowing interrogation of a police officer or firefighter at his/her home; (3) specifying the individuals who may perform the investigation; and (4) limiting the way in which an interrogation of a police officer or firefighter may be conducted. Police chiefs in cities covered by Chapter 143 should carefully review this bill.

H.B. 1660 (P. King), relating to central appraisal district (CAD) boards. Reported from the House Ways and Means Committee. As reported, this bill would provide that a CAD board shall be made up of five directors: four appointed by the county’s local administrative judge and one elected by the county’s voters. The bill also repeals the authority of the taxing units in the CAD to disapprove an action by the CAD board.

H.B. 1793 (Farrar), relating to training of municipal court judges. Reported from the House Corrections Committee.

H.B. 2082 (Isett), providing that the five-percent “local preference” in purchasing may be granted only for an expenditure of less than $100,000. Reported from the House County Affairs Committee.

H.B. 2110 (Hughes), relating to regulatory takings. Reported from the House Land and Resource Management Committee. As reported, this bill would make a city regulation that takes, damages, destroys, impairs, or prohibits development of a mineral interest subject to the Private Real Property Rights Preservation Act, which would: (1) waive sovereign immunity to suit and liability for a regulatory taking; (2) authorize a private real property owner to bring suit to determine whether the governmental action of a city results in a taking; (3) require a city to prepare a “takings impact assessment” prior to imposing certain regulations; and (4) require a city to post a 30-day notice of the adoption of most regulations prior to adoption.

H.B. 2360 (Farias), requiring employers to provide employees with information relating to eligibility for the federal earned income tax credit. Reported from the House Business and Industry Committee.

H.B. 2532 (Bonnen), requiring each city to provide the state with the location of the infrastructure within the city that is critical to the public health or safety and that requires electric utility service to respond to a disaster or emergency. Reported from the House Defense and Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

H.B. 2571 (Gonzales), related to vehicle towing. Reported from the House Transportation Committee. As reported, this bill would give to the Texas Commission on Licensing and Regulation the authority to establish fees for a non-consent tow from a private parking facility. (Companion bill is S.B. 1431 by Hinojosa, below.)

H.B. 2572 (Gonzalez Toureilles), relating to pipelines. Reported from the House Energy Resources Committee. As reported, this bill would allow a gas company to lay a line under a road (as well as over or across a road) if the company pays the required compensation to the city.

H.B. 3062 (Bohac), requiring that when a city orders an election, it must provide a copy of the order to the voter registrar. Reported from the House Elections Committee.

H.B. 3222 (Hancock), allowing two or more cities to designate a joint tax increment financing reinvestment zone. Reported from the House Ways and Means Committee.

H.B. 3612 (Otto), creating a pilot program to allow taxpayer appeals of certain appraisal review board determinations in certain populous counties to be heard by the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Reported from the House Ways and Means Committee.

H.B. 3713 (Bolton), allowing animal control agencies to possess and use Telazol and Ketamine to tranquilize animals. Reported from the House County Affairs Committee.

H.B. 4293 (Branch), requiring that when a person brings a suit against a Texas statute or rule, that person must notify the Texas attorney general. Reported from the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

H.J.R. 17 (Guillen), relating to an active duty military personnel tax freeze. Reported from the House Ways and Means Committee. As reported, this legislation proposes to amend the Texas Constitution to: (1) permit a city to adopt a tax freeze (ceiling on total taxes paid) on the homesteads of active duty military personnel; (2) provide that that military tax freeze may be adopted by action of the city council; (3) provide that the freeze may also be adopted by popular election, which must be called by the city council upon receipt of a petition of five percent of the registered voters of the city; and (4) permit the legislature to statutorily define eligibility for the military tax freeze. (Note: please see H.B. 69, above.)

S.B. 61 (Zaffirini), relating to child safety seats. Reported from the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. As reported, this bill would: (1) reduce the fine for transporting a child without a property safety seat from $100-$200 to $25; and (2) require a city to remit the entire fine to the state comptroller.

S.B. 263 (Carona), relating to the issuance by TXDoT of general obligation bonds for highway improvement projects. Reported from the Senate Finance Committee.

S.B. 388 (Carona), establishing within the Department of Public Safety a “law enforcement integrity unit” to investigate organized criminal activity by a peace officer. Reported from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

S.B. 418 (Carona), requiring a city with a population of 50,000 or more or a city in a county with a population of 100,000 or more to compile and maintain certain information relating to a criminal street gang. Reported from the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. (Note: police chiefs should read this bill thoroughly.)

S.B. 551 (Carona), relating to the liability (and payment and use of a fine) for criminal street gang activity that violates a court-ordered injunction. Reported from the Senate State Affairs Committee. (Note: city attorneys should read this bill.)

S.B. 1120 (West), relating to racial profiling. Reported from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. (Note: police chiefs should read this bill carefully.)

S.B. 1202 (Deuell), relating to the collection and allocation of local sales taxes. Reported from the Senate Finance Committee.

S.B. 1309 (Hegar), invalidating all local regulations relating to commercial fertilizer. Reported from the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

S.B. 1431 (Hinojosa), relating to vehicle towing. Reported from the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. (Please see the companion bill, H.B. 2571 by Gonzales, above.)

S.B. 1498 (Van de Putte), relating to veterans’ employment preferences. Reported from the Senate Veterans Affairs and Military Installations Committee. As reported, this bill would establish a complaint and hearing process for a veteran who believes he/she was denied an employment preference granted under the law. (Note: human resource officials should read this bill carefully.)

S.B. 1529 (Whitmire), relating to criminal asset forfeiture. Reported from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. (Note: police chiefs and city attorneys should read this bill thoroughly.)

S.B. 1629 (Wentworth), relating to public information. Reported from the Senate State Affairs Committee. As reported, this bill would exempt certain Internet newspaper and magazines from the required prepayment of personnel costs incurred by a governmental entity in responding to a public information request. (Note: radio, newspapers, and television are already exempt.)

S.B. 2145 (West), relating to publication of notice for certain municipal procurements. Reported from the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

S.B. 2311 (Averitt), providing that the Texas Water Development Board may not accept an application for a loan or grant of financial assistance from the water infrastructure fund, the state participation account of the water development fund, or the disadvantaged rural community water and wastewater financial assistance fund if the applicant has failed to satisfactorily complete a request by the executive administrator or a regional planning group for information relevant to the project. Reported from the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

S.B. 2315 (Averitt), providing that: (1) a retail public utility, including a municipally-owned utility, providing potable water shall every five years perform and file with the Texas Water Development Board a water audit computing the utility’s most recent annual system water loss; and (2) a retail public utility shall perform and file with the board a water loss audit annually if the utility is receiving any financial assistance from the board. Reported from the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

S.J.R. 9 (Carona), relating to transportation funding. Reported from the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. As reported, this legislation proposes to amend the Texas Constitution by phasing out, by 2018, the funding of the Texas Department of Public Safety from transportation-related fees and taxes.

S.J.R. 49 (Williams), proposing to amend the Texas Constitution to allow the legislature to specify in law the uniform standards and methodologies for appraising property. Reported from the Senate Finance Committee.

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